By day two of our Spring Break Charleston trip, we had ironed out the biggest camping problems and were able to get a smooth start to a day of exploring. Our main destination on April 5th was Magnolia Plantation, which has the gardens and landscaping you would expect to see in a movie or show about the Antebellum South.
Once we arrived at the plantation, we made our way to the gates to obtain tickets to the gardens and the Audubon Swamp tour. This was easier said than done, as the wait was unexpectedly long despite the short lines, mainly because many of our fellow tourists decided which of the various plantation attractions they would visit only when they reached the front of the line. The couple in front of me actually waited to get into an argument about which tickets they would buy when they reached the front of the line, because arguing over the ticket purchase in the thirty minutes they were standing with nothing to do would have been far too convenient for everyone. It was as if someone had bussed in 100 McDonald’s customers, particularly the people who reach the front of the line at McDonald’s only to be struck dumb by the unexpected presence of Chicken McNuggets on the menu, a realization that seems to prompt a deep existential bout of self-reflection about the life choices they were making.
One advantage to waiting in a long line was that we picked up all kinds of useful information…
…which we promptly tested out.
Magnolia has acres and acres of gardens and trails, and we wandered through the gardens near the house first.
The gardens included a horticultural maze which McKenna “solved” roughly 15,000 times. Clearly, she is gifted.
The flowers at the plantation were in full bloom. We have visited the gardens of Versailles in June and not been so lucky.
Not into flowers? Well, at the gardens, you will also see…
Eventually, we made it to the old rice patty part of the plantation, which is now a lake/swamp bordered by giant trees.
By this time, McKenna was just about in starvation mode, and had developed a hanger that would make her a danger to cornered peacocks. We had not expected to be gone this long in the gardens, especially given Laura’s typical attention span at historical sites, so we quickly extricated ourselves from the gardens and returned to the car for our packed lunch. After lunch, we set off to find the Audubon Swamp Gardens, only to find that the Magnolia map makers had been coy about identifying the entrance.
With the help of one of the Magnolia shuttle drivers, we decoded the map and found the entrance. Earlier, when we purchased tickets and learned about the aggressive nature of cornered peacocks, we were given a code to use at the swamp garden gate.
The gate seemed to be malfunctioning, as the code only caused it to open about a foot and half. Using the infiltration techniques we had honed at Disney’s Polynesian Resort last year, we slipped by the gate and entered the garden. This prompted Laura and I to begin discussing how easy it would be to enter the garden for free. Because we are awesome parents.
Spending two days in Charleston has made me something of an expert on Charleston, so you should definitely listen to me when I advise you to prioritize the swamp garden if you visit Charleston. It is amazing.
There was lots of wildlife to see there, and I’m pretty sure we photographed nearly all of it. McKenna helped out in our photographic exploits.
There were nests of birds, turtles, and, on one of the roads, we saw an alligator out sunning itself.
There were signs everywhere warning tourists to avoid alligators and to be sure not to go too close; curiously, though, these tone of these signs was less urgent than that of the peacock warning signs. At any rate, knowing that we should not get too close to the gator…
Eventually, we left the alligator, having neither cornered nor startled it.
We wound our way back to the car and headed back towards Charleston. Our campgrounds were fairly close to Folly Beach, and we decided to swing by the beach on the drive.
McKenna had requested a visit to the beach, in part to have a chance to renew her love affair with sand.
Then she chose to take the plunge into the water. The water temperature was in the 60’s, making it ten degrees or so warmer than the air.
After McKenna completed her personal polar challenge, we strolled around the very small town of Folly, looking for a family-friendly place to get a snack. Naturally, we ended up in an Irish Bar.
Two of the guys in the Irish bar had been doing a considerable amount of day drinking, and they were loud and unruly enough that they were actually embarrassing their only slightly less drunk friends, one of whom kept casting embarrassed glances our way. Eventually, the embarrassed friend bought us a Guinness as an apology, not knowing that we were high school teachers and, therefore, were barely even aware that people in the restaurant were being disruptive.
Having completed the parenting trifecta of exposing our child to bars, wild animals, and frigid swimming weather, we ended at the more wholesome Battery Park area of Charleston.
And then we were off, returning to Midlothian with an enhanced supply of camping equipment and a slighly scratched cartop carrier.